The Michigan government took the first steps towards amending the Right to Farm Act in order to encourage urban agriculture in economically depressed Detroit.
The Right to Farm Act was first passed in Michigan in the 1980s. The goal of Michigan’s law, as well as similar laws in other states, was to reduce nuisance complaints aimed at farms. The act limited a municipality’s ability to regulate local farming, leaving much of that power in the hands of the state government. In addition, it limited the ability of locals to make nuisance complaints, often involving farm odors or dust pollution, against local farmers.
Supported by farmers and a bipartisan group of legislators, the popular act ran into trouble in the wake of the urban farming craze. Over the past several years, major cities have gradually begun embracing urban farming, the transformation of unused or vacant city land into small agricultural plots.
Urban farming, advocates hope, can create much-needed jobs, revitalize downtown areas, and could meet the nutritional needs of city residents.
The problem in Detroit, however, was that the city, afraid of potential fallout from odor and traffic problems, was unwilling to cede total regulatory power, finding it easier to disallow urban farming altogether.
The amendment that was recently approved by the State Agriculture Commission would exempt cities larger than 100,000 people from much of the Right to Farm Act. Detroit officials are hopeful that these exemptions will help encourage an agricultural and economic renaissance within the city.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer